Senate Bill 106 and Senate Bill 45 seek to help move people in Missouri off welfare—but their method, adding even more people to welfare, is pure madness.
These bills would raise the maximum income level for the food stamp program to 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), putting Missouri’s welfare program on par with deep-blue welfare states like California, New York, and Illinois.
A middle-class welfare program
SB 106 and SB 45 would essentially turn food stamps into a middle-class welfare program. Currently, those with incomes up to 130 percent FPL qualify for welfare. That means a household of four can qualify for food stamps with an annual income of up to $39,000 in Missouri today.
SB 106 and SB 45 would bump that limit significantly higher to 200 percent FPL, making even more higher-earning households—including those with substantial incomes—eligible for welfare. This would mean that a household of four would qualify for food stamps with an income of up to $60,000 per year.
These bills would move even more families into dependency, all in the name of supposedly helping them transition out of welfare.
Missouri already has generous transitional benefits
SB 106 and SB 45 completely ignore the reality that Missouri already has generous transitional benefits to help move Missourians off welfare gradually. The transitional program currently in place in food stamps reduces benefits gradually as incomes rise, making sure that benefit reductions never outpace newly earned income. Missouri’s food stamp program also already deducts 20 percent of earned income as benefits are calculated, along with other income and childcare deductions.
In Missouri’s cash welfare program, the state also provides a transitional work benefit for up to six months after hardworking Missourians reach their goal and finally earn enough to cross the threshold and leave the program. Similar transitional benefits exist in public housing and Medicaid.
Bringing in more enrollees at higher incomes would do nothing to facilitate a smoother transition off food stamps.
SB 106 and SB 45 will leave fewer resources for the truly needy
Proponents of these bills insist they will keep Missourians from the welfare cliff, but only two percent of Missourians on food stamps are living in households within 10 percentage points of the eligibility threshold. The reality is that most able-bodied adults on food stamps in Missouri aren’t working at all.
And not only could this result in trapping middle-class Missouri families in dependency, but it would also divert resources from households in greater need.
Missouri is already facing a worker shortage, with workforce participation trending downward over time. The last thing the state needs is to grow welfare and add more households to the cycle of dependency—especially when we have a proven solution to help Missourians get back to work, achieve economic stability, grow their incomes, and pursue opportunity: work requirements.
SB 106 and SB 45 is based on false pretenses and a profound misunderstanding of Missouri’s welfare program—and this kind of welfare expansion should be rejected, once and for all, by Missouri legislators.